Venus Discovering the Corpse of Adonis, Antonio Carracci - The Old Hall at Tatton Park
- Credit: John Hammond
An appreciation of Venus Discovering the Corpse of Adonis, attributed to Antonio Carracci (1589-1618)
The Ancient Greeks held the month of April sacred to their Goddess Aphrodite and it is speculated that the word April derives from her name. Known to the Romans as Venus, she was the Goddess of beauty, love and pleasure.
‘Riding in her dainty chariot, winged by her swans, across the middle air making for Cyprus, when she heard afar Adonis’ dying groans, and thither turned her snowy birds.’ So Ovid told the story of Venus and Adonis in the 8th century. His book of Metamorphoses has been a source of inspiration for writers and artist alike. Chaucer and Shakespeare penned their own interpretations of the legend. The great artist Titian painted many versions of the story; even Disney borrowed Ovid’s words for the theme song of the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland.
Ovid told how Venus took the beautiful Adonis, a keen hunter, as her first mortal lover. Having warned him of the dangers of hunting dangerous animals, Adonis failed to heed Venus’ advice and he was subsequently killed by a giant boar. In this painting we see Venus having arrived at the tragic scene in her unearthly chariot. Cupid is still pulling the swans to a halt, showing that Venus disembarked in a hurry. One wonders however if Carracci had ever seen a swan judging by his unusual portrayal. Meanwhile Venus’ left hand draws our eye to the offending boar skulking in the background.
Antonio Carracci was born in Venice around 1583 to a successful artistic family. Like Adonis he was struck down in his prime, aged only 29. His family were influential in the reform of Italian art and are credited with initiating the Baroque, a period of artistic style that used clear, easily interpreted details to produce drama and grandeur within all forms of artistic expression. The style spread throughout most of Europe.
Carracci’s work is held in many prestigious galleries including the National Gallery in London, the Louvre in Paris, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and the Boston Museum of Fine Art in America. Yet the people of Cheshire have the opportunity to see an example of his work a little closer to home, in the card room at The Old Hall at Tatton Park, near Knutsford.
The Old Hall at Tatton Park reopens this month.
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Tatton Park, Knutsford, WA16 6QN Tel: 01625 374435
Image ©National Trust Images